Most passengers who are injured in an automobile accident primarily realize they have an insurance policy claim of some type against someone’s policy. Sometimes there are even multiple policy riders that provide additional coverage for accident injuries. But, many accident victims do not realize that seat belt and airbag manufacturing companies and auto distributors could be held liable as well when an experienced auto accident attorney investigates the case for defective automotive product causation of the crash. This happens more commonly than accident victims understand, and having an aggressive personal injury attorney who has represented claimants involving defective product cases before is essential for those wanting whole damages for their injuries, especially when they are serious and will have long-term impact. Catastrophic injuries that produce disabled victims always deserve full compensation when the injured party has minimal fault, but often it takes a detail-driven legal professional to represent the case for full ongoing damages.
Seat Belt Injuries
Seat belt injury cases can stem from a wide range of factors regarding the malfunctioning of a restraining device. There are specific seat belt laws pertaining to adults and children, with special emphasis on seat belt injuries involving children who are strapped into car seats. While some seat belt injury claims will be a component of other car accident injuries, there are also instances where seat belts themselves can cause injury by mere malfunction. Examples of seat belt injuries that could result in damage awards can include failure to restrain a passenger, chest injuries from tightening during an accident, and various injuries associated with whiplash. Whiplash is the slinging motion of the head during a crash when the seat belt holds the body back. Injury enhancement resulting from a failure of the belt to remain engaged in the belt harness can also be a component of other car accident injuries. Seat belt malfunction is a rare event, with the possible exception of problems restraining child seats, but it does happen from time to time in isolated incidents. Recall of seat belts are also very rare, so each case is usually evaluated individually as part of a larger injury compensation evaluation.
Air bags are a great safety device when they deploy during a crash and save lives or prevent serious injury. They have surely been proven effective when working properly. However, there has been a significant increase in the number of accidents caused by deploying air bags that explode without impact, with several of those accidents producing fatalities. At issue are the various types of inflation devices manufactured by the Takata Corporation, which were installed in almost every foreign made vehicle sold in the United States for the past two decades. The Consumer Protection Agency also found during their investigation into the problem that the defective airbags were also installed in the majority of American manufactured vehicles as well during that period, which means that each contemporary accident should be evaluated for malfunctioning airbags when the collision is otherwise unexplained. There are also many more types of injuries that may be claimed as well when airbag injuries are apparent. Those injuries include:
- Burns to the face and arms
- Infections due to chemical exposure
- Bruises and abrasions
- Broken bones
- Chest injuries
- Heart injuries
While malfunctioning airbag deployments can cause nominal injuries when the vehicle is not in motion, clearly the most dangerous scenario is when they cause accidents that could result in very serious or even catastrophic injuries, not to mention fatalities. Fatal accidents commonly result in wrongful death claims against the manufacturer and potentially the vehicle sales outlet when a direct connection between the malfunctioning airbag and the accident can be established by a plaintiff legal counselor.
Understanding Product Liability Claims
Seat belt and airbag injuries are prime examples of product liability cases that can arise from malfunctioning auto parts. Seat belts rarely cause an accident, but it can happen when the restraining device becomes disengaged from the harness and strikes the driver. Air bag cases are more prevalent and many are currently connected to a product recall, as tens of millions of vehicles with faulty airbags may still be on the highway. The problem is that so many vehicle owners do not respond to the recall or own a used vehicle that they do not realize contains the problematic bags. Connecting a defective airbag to causation of an accident is a difficult task, but it can be accomplished by an experienced car accident attorney who understands the current dilemma. Product liability claims can be directed at both a car manufacturer and the parts manufacturer, meaning there could be two respondent parties to pursue for damages. In addition, all product manufacturers are held to strict liability standard that does not require a personal injury attorney to prove negligence on the part of the manufacturers. All that is necessary is a connection between the malfunctioning product and the accident producing the claimed injury. All manufacturers in the United States are responsible for the proper functioning of their products when they are sold for commercial use.
All claims regarding faulty seat belts and airbags are evaluated based on the specific injuries suffered and the long-term effects of the injury. Compensatory items in cases not involving auto accidents can be nominal, but will still include recovery for medical bills, loss of wages when the injured party is unable to work, and potential disfigurement and surgery to repair the damage. General damages for pain-and-suffering can be a significant component of the final settlement, including compensation for mental anguish in certain cases. While auto accidents will always include a comparative negligence percentage for each driver, the results of a product liability claim can impact the final determination of any accident claim. An accident that appears to be caused by an injured driver could have easily been the result of a deploying airbag or disengaged seat belt when the driver is distracted with no notice. Punitive damages could also be available in certain cases when a plaintiff attorney can prove the defective product actually caused the collision, especially when the manufacturer failed to conduct proper testing research into the effectiveness and dependability of the product.
Wrongful Death Cases
Defective airbags that cause fatal injuries can leave a family in a serious financial predicament, not to mention the loss of consortium associated with losing a parent or child. Wrongful death claim standing to file a lawsuit is commonly assigned to immediate families of fatal victims. These are damages beyond any claims a decedent estate may have regarding the accident, including pain-and-suffering when the fatality victim did not perish during the impact. The proceeds of a wrongful death claim are considered the property of the designated family members and cannot be included in the settlement of the victim’s estate.
Always Contact a Product Liability Attorney
Product liability cases involving seat belts and airbags are always defended strongly, even when a recall directive is in place. Never attempt to handle a claim personally because they can be complicated and hinge on minor details that only an experienced product liability attorney can establish in court.